Germany rejects calls to end Turkey's EU membership bid

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, in an exclusive interview with TRT World, also expresses hope for Turkey's accession to the EU and says that talks between the two sides must continue.

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

"Those who would like to win applause at home because they say 'We do not talk to Turkey any more' will not change anything in Turkey," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Germany rejected on Friday demands to halt Turkey's bid to join the European Union, even as some EU states claimed that Ankara's membership dream was dead after Turkish citizens voted to switch from a parliamentary system to a presidential one.

EU lawmakers called this week for a formal suspension of Turkey's long-stalled bid to join the bloc, saying it does not meet democratic standards.

But German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who will discuss the issue on Friday with his EU counterparts and with Turkey's top diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu, said such a step would be counterproductive.

"The German government is strictly against cancelling the (accession) talks, that would be totally the wrong reaction," he told reporters as he arrived for the meeting in Malta.

"Those who would like to win applause at home because they say 'We do not talk to Turkey any more' will not change anything in Turkey," he said.

Turkey's deputy prime minister expresses hope

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek also expressed hope for Turkey's accession to the EU  and said that talks between the two sides must continue.

In an exclusive interview to TRT World on Friday he said, “Yes, its true the relations are somewhat strained and I don’t think the blame game would help. What matters is we should continue the talks on more positive agenda and economic integration is by far most important component."

The deputy prime minister further said that, "We believe that upgrading customs union is a low hanging foot for Turkey-EU. If we were to upgrade customs union between Turkey and European Union to include services, public recruitment and agriculture, we could double Turkey-EU trade volume to 300 billion dollars over the next decade."

So, clearly we should focus on what's out there what connects us and economic simple, straight forward. Its interest of Europe and Turkey to continue that progress.”

EU leaders differ in approach

Austria has led calls to abort the process, which was launched in 2005 and has been frozen by political obstacles over Cyprus and resistance in some EU states to let in the majority Muslim country, even before this month's referendum.

"It would be absolutely wrong to stick to the illusion of accession (to the EU)," Austria's Sebastian Kurz said.

Earlier this month, Turkish citizens voted in a historic referendum in favour of 18 constitutional amendments that is the biggest overhaul of the country's political system since the modern state was established nearly a century ago.

Turkey's security measures following a failed coup last July, Erdogan's "Nazi" jibes against EU states Germany and the Netherlands after the two countries allowed "No" campaigns in the respective countries but refused to allow Turkish ministers attend "Yes" campaigns, and what the bloc sees as persecution of dissenting voices, have provoked a crisis in relations.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg, Germany's traditional allies on foreign and economic policy, also called for a new approach to Turkey, a NATO member of 80 million people that sits strategically between Europe and the Middle East.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the European Commission, which handles membership talks with Turkey, should clarify where Ankara stands in meeting EU entry criteria to give EU governments a solid ground for any further decisions.

"We have serious concerns," Koenders said.

Lithuania and Hungary urged caution, saying the EU needed to maintain dialogue with Ankara, especially because it depends on Erdogan's help on keeping a lid on the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe.

"Turkey is a key country in the region, we have to stay engaged, we have to talk, to listen," Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said.

Erdogan said in an interview this week that Turkey would reconsider its position on joining the European Union if it was kept waiting much longer.

The European Union is Turkey's biggest foreign investor and biggest trading partner, while Turkey's border with Iraq, Syria and Russia in the Black Sea make it an important ally.

One way forward could be by broadening the European Union's trade ties with Turkey, giving Turkish companies greater tariff-free access to the bloc's 500 million citizens, and to sweeten any political blow from a formal suspension of accession talks.

"Negotiations are possible on the customs union and we should use that leverage to say to Turkey, what do you want exactly?" France's Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters.